Taking an inside look at COVID vaccine preparation at Augusta University


AIKEN, S.C. (WJBF) – For a lot of people, it’s ‘show up, get a shot’, and go back about your business. But there’s a lot of preparation behind the scenes to get your COVID-19 vaccine.

“CDC provides clear guidance on how we are to store the vaccine,” said Richard Burrell, Director of pharmacy at Augusta University.

You may have heard a lot about the storage process for the COVID-19 vaccine.

“Us using the Pfizer brand at AU, the ultra-cold storage freezers that we have give us an opportunity to store it correctly at between minus 70 and minus 80 degrees Celsius,” said Burrell.

But there is more to it before the vaccine is given to a patient.

“When we’re ready to use the vaccine, we look to move it from the freezer to the refrigerator. It takes about a two to three hour thawing process. At that point the expiration date on the vaccine is about 5 days,” said Burrell.

NewsChannel 6 got to sit in on nurses from Augusta University putting their COVID-19 vaccine training to use.

“So we have a normal saline solution that we take, and we draw up 1.8 of this, and we dispense it into an unopened valve, and then from there we invert ten times slowly, and we take the syringes and draw six out of each valve to zero point three,” said Shanice Anderson, a C.M.A nurse with Augusta University.

Nurses say it only took one day to learn how to properly prepare a vaccine.

Today they administered the Pfizer vaccine. They say the process is about the same for the Moderna but there’s just one difference.

“So the dosage of the Pfizer vaccine is 0.3 every 21 days, and then Moderna is 0.5 every 28 days. So that’s why you have that extra week in between, because you’re getting more,” said Letitia Williams, an L.P.N nurse with Augusta University.

Burrell says nurses receive a significant amount of training to make sure they prepare the vaccines correctly.

“Once thawed, it is a suspension, which means it has particles and so the particles that are heavier in weight could settle to the bottom. The gentle inversion is to make sure it has an equal distribution,” said Burrell.

Every drop counts when administering the vaccine, because each one has an expiration date.

“When we get to the end of the clinic we look to open a vial one at a time to make sure we have enough patients to cover the six doses that are in a vial. If for any reason that doesn’t add up to a full vial, we try to reach out to folks that qualify to come in and get a vaccine. So we’ve had little to no waste at our facility during this process,” said Burrell.

Augusta University will be hosting vaccination clinics here at Aiken Tech twice a week.

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